The draws for the 2021 Canberra Raiders Cup First Grade and Reserve Grade competitions were released on Friday last week, and the Goulburn City Bulldogs have earned a tough opponent first up.
The local teams will begin their 2021 campaigns on Sunday, April 11, with home fixtures against the West Belconnen Warriors.
It is difficult to know what to expect from either side in this clash as, like the Bulldogs, the Warriors did not play in 2020 due to COVID-19.
However, the Warriors have historically been a strong side in the CRRL competitions. Both their Ladies League Tag and Reserve Grade sides won their third consecutive premierships in 2019.
What is unknown, however, is how West Belconnen is shaping up after a year without play.
The Bulldogs have undergone a rebuilding phase which has shaken up the entire structure of the club. While hopes are high, it remains to be seen if Goulburn's First Grade side will continue its form from 2019, or enter a rebuilding year much like the one it underwent in 2018.
Meanwhile, the rest of the First Grade draw has been restored, after a whittled 2020 edition which featured only four teams.
All nine original teams are listed, with some scintillating clashes scheduled for the first round.
The Tuggeranong Bushrangers and Woden Valley Rams will go head to head, in a replay of their 2018 grand final clash.
In the years since their First Grade premiership, the Rams have struggled for that same consistency, and finished the 2020 season with three wins and five losses.
But, after the Bushrangers elected not to play last year, only time will tell if they will retain their previous strength.
Meanwhile, the Queanbeyan Blues will take on the Yass Magpies. Though the Blues are almost always among the top teams in the Canberra Raiders Cup, the Magpies have been somewhat of a bogey team.
The Blues also finished at the bottom of the shrunken 2020 competition ladder, with only two wins and six losses against their name.
Should the Magpies put forward a promising side, this could be a scintillating game.
The final First Grade fixture will feature the Gungahlin Bulls against the Belconnen United Sharks. While the latter did not play last year, the former was the only team to beat the Raiders Under 20s side, and lost to them in the grand final.
The Queanbeyan Kangaroos have a bye in the first round.
All first round Reserve Grade fixtures will get underway from 1.30pm, to be followed by First Grade at 3pm. The first three fixtures of the weekend will be played on Saturday, April 10, while Goulburn's matches against the Warriors will be played on Sunday, April 11.
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